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Panel Labels Completed – 7 hrs

November 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Saturday Nov. 2, 2013

I took a few photos of the DecalPro process so I thought I would post them for anyone who is interested. I am not showing all the steps but this will give you a flavor and a trick I learned. After printing the label graphics on the special blue paper using my laser printer and cleaning the materials the paper is run through the laminator with the black foil on top and the fiberglass board underneath. The tricky part is pulling the foil tight so it does not wrinkle as it goes through.

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Here is the stack after it was run through the laminator twice.

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Then the foil is carefully pealed off leaving the graphics with the black material transferred to the paper where toner was present. Since I am using black foil the graphics look the same as they did before running through the laminator. If I was using white or some other color foil the graphics would have that color at this point.

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The way to tell that the color has transferred is to look at the foil after it is pealed off. The black material is now gone wherever there was graphics.

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Next the mylar transfer film is laminated to the blue paper. In this process the black text and graphics bond lightly to the clear mylar film.

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After that the paper with the mylar film attached is carefully placed in a water bath to release the graphics from the paper, leaving it attached to the mylar film. But it is very fragile and the lettering will detach very easily so this is a critical step. The mylar film is pat dry with a paper towel then cut into individual label groups. It is bonded to the panel using a spray adhesive. The circles your see on the label are just alignment aids I printed with the text to help get them placed on the panel accurately. This is the most challenging part of the process for me. Once the lettering touches the panel it is stuck. You can’t reposition it. In my first few attempts I found that it is not easy to get the placement right on the first touch. After placing a few badly and having to redo them my wife gave me a great tip using a clear acrylic block with etched grid lines that is normally used for arts and crafts (stamping). Using one of the blocks I was able to accurately place the remaining labels each time. Here is the process. After the label is sprayed with the adhesive included in the DecalPro kit, I carefully placed it on the block face down. Traces of the spray adhesive used in the  preparation process will hold it there well enough that it will not fall off during handling. Then I turned the block over and I could see through the acrylic to lower the label down onto the panel in just the right position and angle. As soon as it touches the panel the label is attached. This photo was taken right after placing the labels for the P-Mag swtiches. You can see the circles are concentric with the holes in the panel for the switches so the letting above and below are placed right where I wanted them.  For those interested the blocks are called Inkadinkado Clear Small and Medium Blocks and are available on Amazon for about $9 and also at Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores.

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The label sticks to the panel MUCH better than the block because there is much more adhesive on that side of the label. The block just lifts off leaving the label in place. Then I rubbed down the label as described in the DecalPro instructions to help bond it to the panel. Then carefully peal off the mylar film leaving just the graphics on the panel. Of course, this technique won’t work unless the surface is flat.

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Here is a view of the left side of the panel with lettering all applied.

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After finishing the lettering I riveted the radio stack ribs to the subpanel.

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Then I installed most of the switches and instruments in the panel – this time for good I hope. Wow, it looks clean and colorful. Some may not like the colored switch covers but I like the soft feel and the colors are meaningful to me. Red means the switch should normally be on at all times when flying (Master, ignition, avionics, etc.), yellow means it is used intermittently (pitot heat, boost pump, etc.), and blue is for lights.

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Categories: Instrument Panel

First Attempt with DecalPro – 3 hrs

October 31, 2013 2 comments

Thursday Oct 31, 2013

After pricing dry transfer labels from various printers I decided to give DecalPro a try for my instrument panel. I ordered the kit directly from Pulsar and fortunately my wife has a GBC laminator that is compatible so the out of pocket cost is $90 plus shipping. My first attempt was to run one of the pre-printed sample labels that came in the kit. I followed the instructions as closely as I could and except for a few wrinkles in the foil application it came out fine. So I learned to be more careful and pull the foil tighter.

My next attempt was with a group of labels I printed on my laser printer. The group covered an area approximately 3 x 4 inches and it totally failed in the water bath. For some reason it did not transfer to the mylar at all. So for the next run I made a few changes. First I increased the border width around the labels because this is supposed to help prevent separation in the water bath. I also increased the size of my lettering by 1/2 step to put more toner down and I increased the saturation setting on the laser printer to the maximum level. When I dried the label with the hot air gun I increased the time and I cleaned the materials extra carefully. This time the labels transferred to the mylar as intended and I got a few good labels applied to the panel. Here is the set I applied for a group of switches. The three on the right were all applied as one label and the one on the left was separately applied. The hardest part was placing it correctly on the panel the first time. After the label touches it cannot be moved. It looks pretty good to me. I am certainly happier with this than I would be with P-touch labels.

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Categories: Instrument Panel

Painted Panel, More Wiring – 13 hrs

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Sunday Oct 20, 2013

Saturday morning I began preparing the instrument panel for painting. I removed all the instruments and switches and made a final pass at deburring all edges. I also removed the clecos that held the stiffener angle pieces onto the panel. The angles will be riveted  to the panel with flush rivets so I cut countersinks for all those rivets plus the rivets for the nut plates I will install for the Dynon display mounting. Then I used a scotchbrite pad to scuff up all surfaces. That was followed by cleaning with Simple Green and a wet scotchbrite pad.

I wanted to get a coat of primer on the surfaces that are riveted together so I sprayed a light coat of Ekoprime along the upper rear edge of the panel and the face of the angles. After letting that dry for a while I riveted the angles to the rear of the panel. The next step was to prime the entire assembly with the stiffeners attached.

Most of the rivets along the face of the panel were still visible after that so I decided to fill them with UV Smooth Prime because it fills small gaps well. It was just one dot of primer on each rivet but I had to let that dry well before sanding the surface flush. When I completed that the rivets had disappeared under all but the closest examination. After washing down the panel to eliminate dust I dried it in the sun for a while then sprayed a coat of JetFlex on as the final finish. That took basically all day on Saturday and here is how it turned out.

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The next big question is how to label this panel. P-Touch labels are a common approach but I don’t think they don’t look very professional. Decal Pro is a homemade dry transfer kit but the reviews on that system are mixed. Some say it can be difficult to get good results. Dry transfers from a commercial printer are another option but not inexpensive at about $150 for a single 8×10 sheet of labels. Make one mistake and it will cost you another $100 or so for a second sheet. Ouch! Those seem like my main options. I just need to make a decision.

In the mean time I began mocking up the labels to work out the size, locations, and font of the labels. I just printed out samples on the laser printer and laid them out around the various instruments and switches.

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Here is a closeup example where I am working out the distance above and below switches for labels.

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On Sunday I worked on the wiring of the navigation/position/strobe lights. I have Aveo Ultra Aurora wing tip lights and an Aveo Posistrobe XP on the tail. The power to each is wired to a common circuit on the VP-X Pro using multi-conductor shielded wire. I installed this terminal strip in the fuselage under the seats to distribute the power in three directions. A shielded pair is wired to the strip from the VP-X (including the shield) and shielded triples are wired from there to the three lights. The third conductor in each run is for the sync wire that links the lights all together. Putting the strip here minimizes the weight of wiring and the volume of wires going through the main spar.

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I also tried to tidy up the wires around the pilot stick area including the aileron trim servo wires.

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Categories: Instrument Panel

Mostly More Cowling – 10 hrs

July 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Sunday July 14, 2013

Most of my time this weekend was spent working on the cowling but I also did a few other things just to keep things interesting. First I made labels for my annunciator panel lights. All I did was print out the labels on plain paper on my laser printer and cut them out to fit in the lights. When you pull the colored lens off each lamp there is a diffuser underneath. I put the label between the diffuser and the lens.

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I also made a handle for the canopy release mechanism. The stock handle is long enough to extend out through the instrument panel. I cut it down so it just protrudes past the subpanel when the mechanism is in the latched state. I slotted the tube and drilled a hole for the link pin.

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Here is the handle installed on the mechanism in the latched state. I will install the cotter pin later because I know I still need to remove the subpanel to cut a hole for the radio stack.

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This view is from the aft side. That adel clamp is not installed yet but I marked the location for a hole and I will install a nutplate there when I pull out the subpanel.

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I also started installing the VHF com antenna. Mine is a Comant CI-122 and I am installing it below the pilot’s seat in the most outboard bay. I made a doubler out of some .032 stock alclad including two angles to stiffen it up side to side.

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I located it aft of the main spar and as far forward as I could to keep it as far from the ADSB antenna as I could. That put it right under the aileron control rod. I will probably have to install a 90 degree coax connector on the cable for the antenna to keep the cable away from the control rod. I still need to rivet the doubler in place.

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But most of my time was spent on the cowling. I picked up some high-build primer at ACS on Saturday and sprayed the top cowling section. Boy it is nice to see the pepto pink disappear. I put on three light coats of primer. After it dried I sanded it out with 400 and 600 grit paper and it is nice and smooth. The oil door was sprayed separately.

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The lower cowling still needs a lot of work on the exterior. It is covered with thousands of pits due to the honeycomb layup. So I started filling the pits with slightly thinned epoxy. I started with one coat squeegeed on with a single edge razor blade on the surfaces that are more or less horizontal in this view. It does no good to apply it to the vertical surfaces because it just runs out of the pits. When the first coat was cured about an hour or so and was stiff and sticky I brushed on a second heavier coat – hopefully enough to completely fill the pits. Now I will let it cure so I can sand it out to see if another coat is required.

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